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Outdated Android devices are exposing 400 million users to security threats

Due to manufacturers failing to update older smartphones and tablets
Fri Jan 11 2013, 16:12
Google Android Malware

SOFTWARE DEVELOPER GOOGLE announced back in September that its Android mobile operating system (OS) had hit the 500million mark for active devices globally, with at least 1.3 million additional tablets and smartphones being activated every day.

It won't be long before the search engine giant hits the impressive one billion user mark, providing mobile services to over 14 percent of the total world's population.

But with the recent figures released by Google's Android Developer blog this week - which showed that most Android smartphone and tablet owners are still using older versions of the OS - we should worry that Google's market penetration with Android will bring a slew of security concerns along with it.

The statistics revealed that over 60 percent of present Android users are running what are considered obsolescent versions of the OS, that is, versions released prior to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).

Collected from all devices that have accessed Google Play during a 14-day period ending 3 January, the data represented that 0.2 percent of users are on Android 1.6 Donut, 2.4 percent on 2.1 Éclair, 9.0 percent on 2.2 Froyo, 47.6 percent on 2.3 Gingerbread and 1.5 percent on 3.x Honeycomb.

It was 115 days after Google's 500 million milestone announcement that the Android Developer blog breakdown of how its users are divided up was published earlier in January. This means that if Google's estimate of 1.3 million a day active user increase is correct, there are now at least another 149 million devices that have been activated, making a total of almost 650 million devices that are active worldwide now.

We bet at least one of your eyebrows will have been raised at this point, and if not, it should, as things are about to get a lot more worrying. If Google's latest figures showing that over 60 percent of Android users are running outdated versions of the OS on their mobile devices are correct, that translates into almost 400 million Android users worldwide who need updates.

This implies that a significant number of Android users are open to security vulnerabilities because they are running much older versions of the mobile OS that haven't been updated with Google's latest security patches.

Though Google's data shows that the number of devices running outdated Android versions is declining and the number of active users on newer versions is increasing, it's at a slow rate thanks to manufacturers that are failing to provide up-to-date software releases.

Google proudly announced in its Android Developer blog post that more than 10 percent of all Android users are now using the 4.x Jelly Bean version. But this figure would be much higher if phone makers like Samsung, Sony, Asus, LG, Motorola and HTC supported older devices for longer, instead of offering users one update to the latest version, then denying them further updates in a year or so after they launch new smartphone devices.

Even Android users are complaining about their distress at being open to security threats. For example, one of our readers recently commented, "I have a HTC One X and I am shocked to see it having two updates over the year I've had it, in fact I've just updated to Jelly Bean and it'll probably be the only I get from now till my contract renewal in 2014."

Another commenter added, "This is why Android blows. Millions of devices [are] running old software and the manufacturers [are] not bothering to issue compatible updates for their devices, so most people are stuck on an old version of the OS.

"The whole eco-system is a mess. It's just waiting for some enterprising criminals to issue a clever Trojan that will infect [phones] and steal data from millions of people."


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